Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 36.djvu/373

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far West to fertility; to take in hand on broad lines the improvement of the nation's water-ways? Governments, honest and able, can do many things for the common interest which the people as individuals are powerless to do for themselves. Honest and able, there's the rub! The municipal administration of Berlin, a city well-nigh perfect in government, is carried on for a trifle more than the interest on the public debt of New York. Abounding cause is there to fear waste, corruption, and incapacity in any extension of governmental functions which the future may develop. Still, it is not so much fear of this kind which prevents that extension, as a lack of perception by the American people, governing and governed, of the great benefits that can follow the organized action of municipalities, counties, States, and the nation itself. There is much deploring of political degradation and political immorality: may we not reckon in the future, among the forces working for reform, that of capital wrongly excluded from vast fields of usefulness and profit?


THE varieties of plants which, under various titles, charm us as house-ornaments, and give our habitations a character of freshness and life that is always dear to us, are already numerous. Right along with their growing number goes our increasing affection for them. They are not of the kind of things we tire of as soon as we become acquainted with them; but the more intimately we know them the more disposed we are to seek for new ones. They will never become common. We might suppose that, the more numerous rare flowers become and the more fond amateurs grow of them, common flowers would fall into neglect. But this is not so. We are not only fond of flowers because they are rare or precious, but we love them also for themselves and for the attractions of their own that they possess. In the grand army of flowers which seem made to impress a tone of the gay on the sober background of our existence, there are some stately ones that appear to constitute a kind of aristocracy of this enchanting world.

Such flowers are the subject of our present essay. The orchids, conquerors of the light, may well claim pardon for their triumph over their humble companions of the gardens, for their victory is fairly achieved. They astonish us when we first examine them, then charm us. Nature has been liberal with them, and they have everything. Their flowers are full of that curious